Thursday, January 12, 2012

The official contract signing (and the ABCs of how an agent works)

The official contract signing

Mike's agency contract arrived today, and he signed it with great fanfare, with a stack of bestsellers nearby for luck.

Then we invited Nick to get into the photo, since he's been carrying around his stack of "books" and talking about selling them.
With Nick's eight books
Mike's been in a daze, saying that he feels as if he should pinch himself. To work so long and hard toward a goal, and then to achieve the first major step in that goal, is an irreplaceable feeling!

The ABCs of how an agent works

One thing we've realized this week is that most of our friends and family do not understand how this whole agent relationship works. Mike was surprised to learn this, but I think it's like any industry...when you are immersed in it you forget that people in other walks of life have no clue how things work in your own area. I see that all the time when I edit or write for engineers, planners, and scientists! So here, in my wife-of-an-author/layperson perspective, is how it works:

A: Mike writes a novel.
B: Before digging in to edit the novel, he puts it away for two weeks to settle a bit.
C: Commencing edit mode...he begins revising the novel and improving it.
D: Done with first round of edits, Mike begins to show the novel to critique groups (and if I'm lucky, to me!).
E: Editing some cases for over a year.
F: Finished and ready to send out to agents!
G: Get ready to wait...and (in the case of most authors) receive rejections. This is the hardest part of the entire process.
H: Hard to stay motivated and positive with all these rejections.
I: I'm sure the right agent is out there somewhere!!!
J: Just as the author believes his book is "fatally flawed," he finally receives not one offer, but three, who are interested in his other works in progress as well!
K: Kind wife tries not to say "I told you so, honey" (and fails).
L: Lines up phone calls to interview agents.
M: Makes the very difficult decision to go with one of the agents, after much hand wringing and discussions with wife and writer friends.
N: Now the agent takes over.
O: Signed contract in hand, he starts marketing Mike's book to his contacts at publishing houses. It could take up to a year to sell the book (and worst case scenario--which I'm sure won't happen--it doesn't sell).
P: Publishing acquisitions committee agrees to publish book (cross your fingers!!). Then the revision and production process begins.
Q: Quiet period while Mike waits for printing.
R: Really exciting day when the book is published!
S: Signings and readings scheduled.
T: The New York Times Bestseller List! (Haha--that's why Kieran thought Mike should go with the agent in New York, so he could get on the list--if only it were that easy. But I'm guessing this is rare for middle grade unless you're JK Rowling.)
U: Unless he gets distracted by his overwhelming success, Mike continues to write while promoting his first novel. Then the process starts back all over again, but skipping the most difficult step of acquiring an agent!
V: Very successful Mike gives very successful agent 15% of the profits of the book.
W: Wife gets to cut back her hours at work to part time (it IS all about me, right?).
X: Excellent reviews! (Okay, I cheated a little on this one.)
Y: Your friendly Hollywood studio calls to ask for movie rights. (Dreaming now.)
Z: Zenith of author's career.
Hope that little tutorial was helpful!


  1. Very clever AND very informative and interesting! Thanks, Marie!

  2. I'm amazed at the 26 steps to getting to be a RA...real author. As if Michael isn't real...HA!
    Nicholas is getting a head start on his writing career. Lucky boy!

  3. I like your ABCs, so I provided a link to the readers of my Sunday Salon post to come here and read them. Here's my post, if you want to read it:

  4. Just linked up to your blog from the Sensible Moms Link-up Par-tay and so happy to have seen this post...I am about to start querying agents for my memoir. I'm excited but nervous. I'm so glad to read about your husband's road to finding an agent...I wish him continued success!

  5. This is really interesting and demonstrates the patience needed to publish and sell a boook. I just don't think I have that patience!!!

  6. Very interesting. I might still be on step sub-A: how do you find agents to send your book to? :) Is your husband published now? Ellen